Sadly, though it's likely to gain the band a new branch of followers, this sense of finesse often comes at the expense of the band's exuberance. In its stead is a batch of often maudlin or saccharine synth-pop ballads. Stripped of groove and much of their former revelry, the band's lyricism is left to carry more of the burden than it can bear. Gone is the fragmented storytelling of "Hold On," or the simple titular push of "One Pure Thought." Rather, we're offered often sticky-sweet—both sonically and lyrically—songs of fraternity and, well okay, love, musings from behind closed doors; the ceaseless chanting, of "hand me down your love" on the track that bears that name over a generic beat and clunky piano pounding.
Elsewhere, the sonic backdrop seems particularly cloying. With heavy doses of swaying synthetic strings, a stale electro thump and an Autotuned Joe Goddard, "I Feel Better" is unfocused—one of several cuts on the record that seem content to heap steel drums or mournful saxes into the mix rather than concentrate on their internal sense of inertia and advance (something the band used to do quite well). But two songs right near the record's belly—the skeletal piano ballad "Slush" and the goofball strut of "Alley Cats"—really undermine Hot Chip's new precision. The former leaves Alexis Taylor's Fraggle Rock voice, always one of the band's debatable assets even for fans, too exposed. With its cascading guitar lines and sleepy Rhodes, the latter settles into a Balearic stroll that aims for the simple pleasures of a lazy day but winds up sounding lifeless. Both seem like indications not of growth but of a kind of premature aging. Though acts like Scritti Politti or Robert Wyatt have been mentioned as kissing cousins, Hot Chip's is an ersatz assimilation of their soulful, vibrant English pop.
Fortunately though, One Life Stand isn't always so contemplative. Both lead single "One Life Stand" and opener "Thieves in the Night" capture the band's talent for affirmation; both pack three or four bedroom anthems across their length. Arguably their best song to date, closer "Take It In" resembles Power, Corruption, and Lies-era New Order in how it circles around a nagging, hypnotic melody that celebrates its own excess. What begins so dim—in ominous clanging synths zaps—soon elevates into another of those dawnbreak choruses we've come to expect. Sure, this song's about love too. Fuck, it even mentions hearts that fly like doves. But that's hard to hear against such an enveloping rush of sound, a trick hopefully Hot Chip will return to the next time out.